User , Scaleups — 09.16.2022

How to Start Your Product-Led Growth Transformation

If you’re founding a tech company today, there’s a good chance you’re familiar with product-led growth (PLG). If not, you’re probably thinking “I want to grow like Slack did” or “I want people to start using my product without a lot of hand-holding.” 

In either case, you’re founding a tech company from the new digital product playbook.

But most product leaders and CEOs are embarking on the process of product-led growth transformation because they started their companies in a different time. This is critical because PLG—while straightforward in its value—is challenging when you’ve experienced years of building your product through sales-led, marketing-led or even founder-led growth models.

 In this article, we’ll break down how to achieve PLG transformation and highlight areas where you can start as you transition your product.

Support Your Team’s Product-Led Growth Education

Don’t assume that because you’re aware of PLG and its benefits, others on your team are, too. PLG is as transformative as movements like agile development and pragmatic marketing were over the past decade. This is a sea change. 

Thankfully, you don’t need to shoulder the burden of educating your team. You can, however, curate content to engage them. There is no shortage of resources to educate your team. Podcasts, blogs, newsletters, you name it. 

When curating PLG content for your team, look for resources that speak directly to their role. That way, the material will feel relevant to them right now. If you have a team of early-stage practitioners, your curated content list will look different than a one meant for a team of senior product leaders. 

How Your Team Supports PLG

Product-led growth varies by industry, but there are few constants you’ll need to have in place to be successful.

First, design and product management are critical. You can’t be successful in PLG without first ensuring you have those roles identified. You may have them in-house or use a trusted outside partner, but in either case, you can’t adopt true PLG without them.

  • Product Management: Product Management ultimately owns PLG. Product managers ensure growth projects tie to a higher business strategy. For example, if your goal is to increase account growth in Q2, product managers determine what feature sets support that goal.
  • Product Design: Product Design will have strong impact on both brand and product marketing, and user experience (UX). Your brand will do some of the heavy lifting for setting the right expectations for customers. They should be excited and understand what your product does before first use. UX design will take over from there. Designers ensure users know how to get started with your product, how to upgrade and how to recognize value. 

Product roles must work with marketing, sales and customer service. Many teams assume “product-led” means “product only,” which is false.

In product-led organizations, functional roles like marketing and sales are as critical as before. They just have different seats on the bus:

  • Marketing: You’ll want a marketer working with product to define how prospects become buyers, and how marketing-qualified leads can support product-qualified leads. 
  • Sales: In PLG, sales teams have less responsibility for sourced deals, and is more responsible for growing accounts and converting users from free to paid tiers.
  • Customer Service: Much like sales, customer service should be used for expanding and growing accounts. Customer service’s role in user setup should disappear over time. Unless you are building a product that works with highly complex data or integrates with entrenched enterprise software, your users shouldn’t need a human to get started. 

How To Get Started

As you continue your PLG transformation journey, you’ll eventually have key metrics tied to the product team and revenue goals to match. 

Expect your team’s readiness for PLG to vary. You’ll have to transform product and R&D spend and reallocate resources in ways you haven’t before. Realistically assigning revenue goals to product could take several months or years to achieve, and that’s OK. 

Here are a few ways to think about where to start:

  • Revamp user onboarding. There’s no such thing as a product-led company that requires a tutorial or customer support to get started. If you’ve procrastinated doing this, now’s the time to take it seriously. You can use onboarding tools like App Cues to ensure users can onboard themselves. Your goal should be to minimize drop-off and customer support messages.
  • Set your product up to use metrics. Much like marketing needs Google Analytics and referral tracking codes, you’re going to need to track activity in your product. Early on, metrics and tracking are key establish benchmarks. Where are users spending the most time? How often are they giving up on a task? Later, you can use tools like Pendo to optimize your product.
  • Establish achievable goals. You don’t need to assign revenue responsibility to your product team today, but you should know how product goals will translate to business goals. With a clear assessment of your competence, you can establish goals that are reasonable. For example, if you have a lot of support calls, you may simply want to decrease customer support messages. If you aren’t converting free trials, experiment with upsell notifications in the product.
  • Carve out a growth team. Mature companies like Pinterest have independent growth teams. To start, you can build a growth team by borrowing time from sales, marketing, product and design. For example, if you set a goal for a percentage of users to onboard themselves, that’s a great project for a cross-collaboration among those teams to execute.

If SaaS was the way to win over the past 15 years, PLG is how you’ll win the next five. Products that weren’t built to support PLG face a particularly daunting challenge — they must change old habits and revamp existing processes.

If you don’t adopt PLG, the upstarts will, quickly. Now is the time to begin your transformation.

Ready to start? Find out how we can help you implement a PLG strategy.